In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, and made them in His likeness. This is the story that everyone has heard, most likely regardless of what religion you follow. It is present in all of the Abrahamistic religions, but most people don’t know that this story goes even farther back. Most people don’t truly understand that other cultures have this tale as well. For example, In Egypt, this is the story of Osiris and Seth. They were also brothers, both in love with their sister, which is why one killed the other. Osiris is then resurrected and creates the first city. The Sumerians put down the story of the hearders vs the farmers on clay tablets, with the hearders representing Abel, and the farmers representing Cain. In this myth, the story of the god Demuzi vs the god Inkindu started fighting over their sister, the goddess who was Anana. This story bears a striking resemblance to that of the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis, Cain goes on to create the first city as well after he is exiled. But that is getting just a little bit ahead of myself. Let’s take a second to get reacquainted with the story. The below excerpt is taken from the Wikipedia entry on Cain and Abel, located here:
In the Bible, Cain and Abel (Hebrew: הֶבֶל ,קַיִן Qayin, Hevel) are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur’an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam (Arabic: إبني آدم) only.
Cain is described as a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel as a shepherd. Genesis 4:2 Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his brother, after God rejected his offerings of produce but accepted Abel’s sacrifice “from the firstborn of his flock and from their fats”.Genesis 4:1,3 Thus, Cain was the first human born, and Abel the first to die.
The oldest known copy of the Biblical narration is from the 1st century Dead Sea Scrolls. Cain and Abel also appear in a number of other texts, and the story is the subject of various interpretations. Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr; while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil.
Now that we have a general idea on who the players are and what their story is about, it should also be noted that this story tells of many firsts: the first ritual sacrifices ever recorded in the bible, the first homicide, the first coverup, the first case of grief, sorrow, the first drop of tears, the first event of remorse, the first patricide, the first exile, the first jealousy, and envy, and arguably, the first case of forgiveness. Those are just the main bullet points, as there are quite a few more, but I figure that is a good starting point. It also begs to ask quite a few questions which, to this day have no clear cut answers, such as “God accepts Abel’s, but rejects Cain’s. Why would God prefer one sacrifice (blood) to another (grain)?”, and “If Adam and Eve only had two sons, how did they populate the earth?”
In regards to the sacrifice, as stated above, while it is still unclear as to why God was receptive of one form of sacrifice and not the other, the reactions to this selectivity are what is interesting here. When God makes His acceptance, this makes Cain both jealous and angry, and filled with resentment. Many scholars believe that the challenge to Cain from God was to recognize and accept that his brother has insights, gifts, and talents that he doesn’t. Another famous theory, especially in Islamic beliefs, was that Abel’s heart was righteous, and Cain’s was not, and that God knew this. But, what if there were other causes? What if there were other unspoken reasons in which God had shown preference? According to some Hebrew and Islamic scholars, the reason Cain’s heart was not righteous was because of a woman: their sister, Awan. It is believed that Awan was intended for Abel, but Cain fell in love with her. This can be seen in the Book of Jubilees. Adam & Eve had nine (9) children. And this is where the story takes an interesting turn. Genesis, by the way, has no problems with incest, specifically brothers an sisters marrying. That is because there is no other option at this point. So, from this point of view, God has favored Abel in both marriage AND sacrifice.
Other reasons which have been speculated were that Cain was the son of Eve and the devil, while Abel was the son of Adam & Eve. This is most likely the reason why the descendants of Cain were cursed, according to some obscure beliefs. According to The Encyclopedia of Demons & Demonology, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, ISBN-13: 978-0-8160-7314-6, on page 138:
ADAM & EVE (Under the section entitled “Demonology in the Kabbalah”)
Sexual activities between demons and humans are prominent. Demons cannot reproduce on their own. Through sex, demons can multiply and take on physical form. Adam spawned a hybrid human-demon race, which has continued on down through the ages through the sexual intercourse between humans and demons. Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, were tainted with the impurity of the SERPENT who slept with Eve and spawned demonic children as well.
The hybrid demon-human children who continue to be born are banim shovavim (mischievous sons). When a man dies, they attend his funeral, lament him, and claim their inheritance. They will even injure the legitimate sons in order to get what they want
And also from that same book, under the entry for “Satanel”:
After Adam was created, Satanael created Eve with God’s help. He assumed the form of a serpent and had sexual intercourse with Eve with his tail, begetting the twins Cain and his sister Calamine. (Abel was conceived by Adam and Eve). God punished Satanael for defiling Eve by making him dark and ugly and taking away his power to create and his divine form. God left Satanael to have dominion over the world for seven ages.
Even further than that, more information about Cain & Abel can be found here: Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter W. van der Horst, ISBN 0-8028-2491-9, page 180:
I. In Gen 4:1, the name of the first son of Adam and Eve, Cain, is related in a popular etymology to the Hebrew verb QNH ‘to acquire’. More probably the name should be related to either the Ugaritic qn ‘reed; shaft’ and Heb qayin ‘javelin’ or to Syrian and Semitic words for ‘smith’; e.g. Syr qajnaja ‘(gold)smith’; Thamudic qjn; qn and qnt. ‘smith’ (HALAT 1025; HESS 1993). His name might be related to a Thamudic deity qayn. Besides, the story on Cain and ->Abel has been interpreted mythologically, Cain representing the deified sun (GOLDZIlfER 1876: 129-139).
II. In Thamudic inscriptions the personal name ‘abd-qayn’ is attested once (VAN DEN BRANDEN 1950:10). Qayn has been interpreted by Van den Branden as a Sabaean lunar deity. HOFNER (WbMyth 1/I, 461-462; RAAM. 277) doubted the divine status of Qayn in view of the well attested Thamudic personal name Qayn and the noun qayn ‘smith’. The construction ‘abd-NN leaves open the possibility that Qayn was a Thamudic deity or a deified ancestor, however. In view of the etymology of the name, Qayn may well have been a patron deity for the metal-workers. A relation with the South-Arabian deity Qaynan (->Kenan) is uncertain.
III. A tale about the rivalry of two brothers at the dawn of civilization has more than one religio-historical parallel: ->Osiris and ->Seth, Romulus and Remus. Eteokles and Polyneikes are just the more familiar ones (WESTERMANN 1974:428-430). In such stories the ‘two brothers’ can be seen as heroic figures. GOLDZIHER (1876: 129-139) goes one step further in interpreting these tales as survivals of myths in which the ancestors of a culture are presented as divine beings. Cain is supposed to represent, originally, the solar deity in combat with the transient powers of darkness: Abel. In the current version of Gen 4 no traces of such a mythology are visible, however.
In the OT Cain occurs only in the story of Gen 4 where he is the cultural and moral opposite of Abel. Cain represents the realm of settled agricultural life. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Cain is mentioned as the opposite of his brother Abel (Heb 11:4): “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain”. The author of this letter refers to the unanswerable question why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected and Abel’s accepted. This problem is discussed in some Hellenistic Jewish and Rabbinic sources too (->Abel). In the Letter of Jude. Cain is presented as the model for the evildoers from Sodom and Gomorrah who “went in the way of Cain” (Jude 11).
So from the very beginning, it would seem that Cain was damned regardless of whatever path he took, but that also develops into a much further and sinister story. See, the events of the story are as follows:
God warns Cain that he must turn away from evil thoughts. He cannot.
Cain then asks his brother to go with him into the fields. Abel, non-violently then lies down in the middle of the altercation, and tells Cain to “do with me what you will”. Cain cannot complete the deed. This isn’t surprising, as no man has ever killed another up to the point in history.
As the story is interpreted by commentators of the Holy Quran, when Abel refuses to fight his brother, even while Cain attempts to strangle him to deal. Despite his best efforts, he still can’t kill him. It is then that the devil appears to him, and offers instructions as to how he would go about killing his brother. He tells Cain to hit his brother on the head with a rock.
Cain then beats Abel to death with a rock.
In Islam, Cain tries to hide the body from God by burying Abel after he realizes the gravity of the sins that he had created. In shame, he tries to hide the body from the eyes of God.
This is both the first death, and the first murder in the scriptures. This also introduces pain and suffering into the world. And at this point, some new questions are added to the fray. What does murder mean in this world without death? How did Cain know to kill in the first place? Did he understand what he had done?
After Cain has killed his brother, the devil visits Eve, who was unaware of what had happened, he tells her: “Your son is not going to come back to you”.
“What do you mean”? She asks in response.
“He is dead. He is killed.” the devil says, further elaborating, and mentioning killing for the first time.
She again asks “What does ‘killed’ mean? What does ‘death’ mean?“
The devil explains that Cain shall not speak to her anymore. He shall not return, he shall not eat, he shall not sleep, he shall not breathe.
Eve then weeps, and these tears are the first tears that a human being had ever shed.
So as you can see, this is a dramatically immense act which most people don’t understand the gravity of in modern days. Imagine that everyone on earth lived forever, and that there was no sickness or death. This was completely unknown to Adam and his family. They had never experienced this. So for them, this was a tragedy that was otherwise incomprehensible to us. When Cain killed his brother, he didn’t just kill one man – he killed the possible future of the whole world.
God then asked Cain where his brother is, to which Cain responds with a phrase that would become infamous throughout history:
“Am I my brother’s keeper?“
“Your brothers blood is crying out to me from the ground.” God said to him, calling attention to the fact that He already knew what had happened.
Ultimately, the answer is yes, indeed, you are your brother’s keeper. What many people fail to understand is the fact that Cain was actually repentant. And the outcome challenges many Christians point of view of a vengeful, wrath-inducing “Old Testament” God. The fact that he felt and showed remorse is arguably what saved him in the next series of events, in which God had chosen to have him exiled. However, Cain is afraid he would be killed by other people. So God marks him so that none shall harm him. This is the “Mark of Cain“. And, as with many events in the Bible and this story in general, the question begs to be asked: If Can and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve, even if they had seven (7) other siblings, if Can was to be banished, who the hell are the “other” people who live in the wilderness, that Cain was afraid of being hurt by?
Furthermore, there is however, also the question that begs to be answered as to why God would protect Cain, a murderer. Many ancient rabbis believed that the reason God protected Cain was because of the fact that before this act, there had never been a such thing as death or murder in the world. So, Cain could not fully understand what it was that he was doing when he was hitting his brother in the head with a rock, so this could not have been “murder in the first degree“. As said, he did not fully understand the consequences of his actions. Thus, it is believed that the reason God kept Cain alive, and did not punish him by penalty of death, was because of the fact that the death of Abel would have been ruled accidental, even in ancient Hebrew courts, due to the lack of Cain’s understanding of his actions. God does not sentence Cain to death, but to banishment. The people I had referred to above can be found in Cain’s response to this banishment:
Cain said to the lord: “Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence. I will be a restless wanderer on the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.”
God gives him a mark and says “If anyone kills Cain, that he would be avenged sevenfold.”
Cain then heads east of Eden, to the land of Nod, never to return home again. But what exactly was this alleged “mark of Cain” that God had bestowed upon him as a form of protection? Some ancient rabbis believed that Cain grew horns on his head, to protect himself. Others believed that he was marked with leprosy. But even more believe that it was not a physical mark, but that the sun shown on Cain wherever he went, so that all would know that he was under God’s protection. This does not protect his name from attack or slander though, obviously, as throughout history, Cain has been one of the most slandered named in the entire whole of the Bible, besides the name of Judas Iscariot. Another interesting theory presented forth by St. Augustine was that Jesus and his people represented Abel, and Cain and his descendants represented the Jews. And just as Cain had killed Abel, the Jews had killed Christ. And as punishment from God, the Jews were punished to be a wandering people. Quoted from “The City of God” by St. Augustine. Due to Augustine’s anti-semitism, the Jews were forced to wear clothes identifying themselves as such. Over a century later in Spain, Alfonso the 10th issued a very similar law as well.
In 1941, the Nazi’s ordered all German-Jews to identify themselves in public with a yellow star, propaganda minister Joseph Gerbils wrote a newspaper editorial where he compared the yellow star to the mark of Cain. While it is no secret that Adolf Hitler was a well known obsessive occultist, it has been widely speculated that the Mark of Cain was actually the Star of David, an ancient symbol much revered, which would be the equivalent to the Christian/Catholic crucifix. This symbol was turned into a form of “identifying mark” for the Jews during World War II. This doesn’t exactly surprise me, as the Mark of Cain has been used throughout history to subjugate other people in the name of faith. Also worthy of note, slave trading was justified by churchgoing Englishmen who believed that Africans bore the mark of Cain. 100 years later, in 1852, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, Brigham Young, said: “I tell you this: people that are commonly called ‘negros’ are the children of old Cain.”
While it is unknown what that mark is exactly, there has been much speculations over the millennia. The story ends relatively happily, with Cain and his line of people starting a separate line of humans throughout history. After his exile, Cain then has a son, named Enoch (not the same Enoch from the Book of Enoch), and Cain builds a city in honor of his son. Now, once again, where exactly did Cain find a mate from to have a son? Well, as stated above, according to ancient Hebrew texts, Cain settled down and married his sister. They had a son together, built a city, and lit the candle of civilization. Scholars agree that this all happened in ancient Mesopotamia, now modern day Iran/Iraq.
And in closing, while there is not a tremendous amount of information available, it is not surprising that many people out there believe that Cain is the product of the unholy union between Eve and the Devil in the garden of Eden, and that Eve was actually seduced sexually by the serpent and impregnated, thus representing her “choice” to accept the forbidden fruit. Adam becomes involved when she tries to convince him to accept the child and raise it as his own, this, he makes his choice to accept the fruit as well. This of course, is a metaphor and a supposition, but in the end, there is no way to guarantee or verify any of that. This breeds all sorts of implication, and accusations, and cannot be substantiated one way or the other. But, as with many of the great stories in the Bible, it offers a great many opportunities to take some time and examine your own thoughts and feelings towards the stories, and allows you to try to see the situation from all sides. Many people would have never assumed that Can was repentant, but upon further scholarly examination, this is the conclusion that has been drawn, and it may very well have saved Cain’s life in the eyes of God. Even worse, the fact that the devil chose to appear to his son in this moment of crisis and explain to him how he could go about murdering his brother just goes to show you the level of deception and insidious nature of the beast, as well as his inherent hatred for all of humanity. In the end, I personally feel that this tale is one of love, and not hate. God forgave Cain, despite an entire variant of the future being wiped out by his actions. What would the world have been like if Abel’s line had been allowed to populate with Cain’s? Could we imagine how different things would have been? Nowadays, I don’t think we can.